The heresy of Modalism is creeping up the walls of my Facebook friends

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I am seeing a Facebook meme passed around like popcorn. It was created by a professing Christian who named his ministry after himself. Making a first person – personal pronoun ministry named after yourself has always been a red flag to me. 🤮

I was going to name the man and his ministry and include a screenshot, but I want to tread lightly in that regard. Admittedly, I have misspoke while preaching, and a Christian from my former church later told me that I sounded like a Modalist in one open-air sermon. After reviewing the audio of that sermon, that person was correct. My only excuse for my serious error was ‘I apologize, that was not intentional, I misspoke.’ 

Albeit I later edited that from the aforementioned open-air sermon, this fellow’s meme will never go away. Furthermore, his meme is dangerous because it has just enough truth to it to allow the err to covertly creep in (Jude 4).

Though the meme rightfully pushes back against synergism, and that the sinner has nothing to do with their professing salvation. It wrongfully teaches modalism, that only Jesus and Jesus only had anything to do with our salvation. Modalism is worse than false teaching, it is heresy. 

If you are not sure of what modalism is, read on.

My Definition of Modalism

Modalism is a heresy that believes (or teaches) that each Person of the Trinity operates in a separate mode of their own. They erroneously teach that the Father has one mode, the Son operates in His own mode, and the Holy Spirit has another mode. It can also teach that salvation can only come from the Jesus mode, and/or that the Father and Holy Spirit had nothing to do with our salvation. Modalism is also known as Oneness Pentecostalism, Patripassianism, and/or Sabellianism.

The history of Modalism

Below is a brief, to-the-point historical definition. 

“Also known as * and Sabellianism, modalism was deemed a heretical doctrine by the early church. To preserve the unity of God and at the same time make sense of the doctrine of the Trinity, modalist teachers like Sabellius taught that one God appeared in three distinct modes: the Father in creation, the Son in redemption and the Holy Spirit in sanctification. Modalism falls under the larger category of *monarchianism, the attempt to defend the unity of God against charges of tritheism.”

Nathan P. Feldmeth, Pocket Dictionary of Church History: Over 300 Terms Clearly and Concisely Defined, The IVP Pocket Reference Series (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2008), 98.

My first experience with a Modalist

It’s one thing to believe the heresy of modalism. It’s another to teach, apply, or demand it. Years ago while in a Bible study, a fellow asked me how I was water baptized. My response was ‘by water submersion.’ He then asked in what name? I replied, ‘In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.’ He then told me that my baptism was invalid, and if I didn’t get baptized “in the name of Jesus,” then I’m not saved. That was my first experience with a Modalist. Frankly, that was heretical tyranny. But his modalism compounded one heresy with another, that being baptismal regeneration.

The Salvific work of the Trinity, according to the Scriptures

Though I agree that I had nothing to do with my salvation and that salvation was the monergistic work of the LORD, again, the aforementioned meme was in error. 

The Bible teaches that salvation is the monergistic work of the Triunity of the Godhead. That all Three Distinct Persons of the Trinity harmoniously take part in the salvation of the Lord’s elect.

To scratch the surface, here is what does occur in salvation between all three Distinct Persons of the Trinity (though there are many more passages to use as a cross reference).  

The Father chooses and draws His elect to His Son (John 6:37-40, Eph. 1:3-6). The Son redeems, atones, and justifies those that the Father gave Him (Eph. 1:7-12). And His Holy Spirit regenerates their heart, as repentance and faith are administered to and/or gifted (Ezekial 36:26-27, Eph.1:13–14).

The 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith on the Trinity

The 1689 has a beautiful description of the Doctrine of the Holy Trinity. Below are all three paragraphs of chapter two.

1. The Lord our God is but a one only living and true God; whose b subsistence is in and of himself, c infinite in being and perfection; whose essence cannot be comprehended by any but himself; d a most pure spirit,e invisible, without body, parts, or passions, who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; who is f immutable, g immense, h eternal, incomprehensible, i almighty, every way infinite, k most holy, most wise, most free, most absolute; l working all things according to the counsel of his own immutable and most righteous will m for his own glory; most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; n the rewarder of them that diligently seek him, and withal most just o and terrible in his judgments, p hating all sin, and who will by no means clear the q guilty. 

(a 1Co 8:4,6; Deu 6:4; b Jer 10:10; Isa 48:12; c Exo 3:14; d Joh 4:24; e 1Ti 1:17; Deu 4:15-16; f Mal 3:6; g 1Ki 8:27; Jer 23:23; h Psa 90:2; i Gen 17:1; k Isa 6:3; l Psa 115:3; Isa 46:10; m Pro 16:4; Rom 11:36; n Exo 34:6-7; Heb 11:6; o Neh 9:32-33; p Psa 5:5-6; q Exo 34:7; Nah 1:2-3) 

2. God, having all r life, s glory, t goodness, blessedness, in and of himself, is alone in and unto himself all-sufficient, not u standing in need of any creature which he hath made, nor deriving any glory from them, but only manifesting his own glory in, by, unto, and upon them; he is the alone fountain of all being, x of whom, through whom, and to whom are all things, and he hath most sovereign y dominion over all creatures, to do by them, for them, or upon them, whatsoever himself pleaseth; in his sight z all things are open and manifest; his knowledge is a infinite, infallible, and independent upon the creature, so as nothing is to him contingent or uncertain; he is most holy in all his counsels, in b all his works, and in all his commands; to him is due c from angels and men, whatsoever worship, service, or obedience, as creatures they owe unto the Creator, and whatever he is further pleased to require of them. 

(r Joh 5:26; s Psa 148:13; t Psa 119:68; u Job 22:2-3; x Rom 11:34-36; y Dan 4:25,34-35; z Heb 4:13; a Eze 11:5; Act 15:18; b Psa 145:17; c Rev 5:12-14) 

3. In this divine and infinite Being there are three subsistences, d the Father, the Word or Son, and Holy Spirit, of one substance, power, and eternity, each having the whole divine essence, e yet the essence undivided: the Father is of none, neither begotten nor proceeding; the Son is f eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Spirit g proceeding from the Father and the Son; all infinite, without beginning, therefore but one God, who is not to be divided in nature and being, but distinguished by several peculiar relative properties and personal relations; which doctrine of the Trinity is the foundation of all our communion with God, and comfortable dependence on him. 

(d 1Jo 5:7; Mat 28:19; 2Co 13:14; e Exo 3:14; Joh 14:11; 1Co 8:6; f Joh 1:14,18; g Joh 15:26; Gal 4:6)

Though the Apostle Paul was not specifically addressing modalism in the below passage, we can certainly apply this. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 11:3-5,

“But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted—you may well put up with it!”

Therefore, if a professing Christian believes that Jesus is a nomadic person that operates apart from the Father and Holy Spirit, then they believe in “another Jesus” that’s not the Jesus of the Bible. They have formed a Jesus into a figment of their own imagination, rather than submit to the Biblical image of Jesus as the Christ.

In closing, Facebook memes do matter. And though I fall short. We need to walk and post memes circumspectly. Because Doctrine matters.

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